Is it legal for her to charge a fee I was never informed of and to keep both of my paychecks?

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Is it legal for her to charge a fee I was never informed of and to keep both of my paychecks?

I do lawn service as an independent contractor. My paycheck was due on Wednesday. I tried to contact my employer and when I was finally able to reach her on Friday, she informed me that she had my paycheck and more work for us. We told her we could do it. Then after a look at our finances we decided we didn’t have enough money to fund another months worth of work so I e-mailed her to let her know we weren’t going to be able to do the routes she sent out. She then sent me an e-mail back saying that she was going to charge us a $10 reassignment fee for every lawn we didn’t complete. She is now holding/keeping both of our last paychecks. There was never anything mentioned about this fee prior to my resignation. I it legal for her to keep both my paychecks?

Asked on August 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As an independent contractor, your work was done pursuant to a contract, or agreement, as to the terms of employment, what you would be paid, etc.--even if it was only an oral (or verbal) agreement, it was still a contract. Neither party may add to or change the terms of the agreement without the agreement of the other party, so she may not charge you any fees which you had not agreed to. She also must pay you for the work you did, pursuant to the terms of your agreement, and may not withhold your compensation. If she will not pay you voluntarily, you can sue her to recover your money. A good option is likely to sue in small claims court, where you can act as your own attorney.


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